Louis C.K.'s Gamble Could Shake Up Comedy Scene

Comedian Louis C.K. ‘s new comedy trial balloon might change how his fellow stand-ups earn a living. The comic released a new comedy special, “Louis C.K.: Live at the Beacon Theater,” via his personal web site on Saturday.

No middle men. No one to slurp up any profits. Just his stand-up act ready to be downloaded at the consumer’s convenience.

Louis CK

The comedian started selling the special on Saturday, and four days later it sold $500,000 worth of downloads at $5 a pop.

In the very recent past, comedians would team up with Comedy Central or HBO to set up their hour-long specials. Stand-up comics relied on such partnerships to expand their name recognition and launch them into the proverbial big time. Now, if a name act has a web site and some entrepreneurial pluck, he or she can take on the assignment themselves.

Why would Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld or even Dane Cook go the cable TV route if they could sell their own specials and reap some pretty impressive profits?

This won’t work for Jokey Jokerson, an unknown comic looking to crack the stand-up scene. But Mr. Jokerson can rely on YouTube to get his clown foot in the door, and from there perhaps he can leverage the power of the web to start selling his live act to the masses.

Louis C.K. is beloved by his fellow comics and he headlines an FX television show. But he’s still not a mainstream success story. Now, with him wielding the web’s economic power to his advantage, he doesn’t have to be.

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